It was built to accommodate the workers associated with the Tongariro hydro-electric power development project and their families. The town was designed to remain as a small servicing centre for the exotic forest plantations south of Lake Taupo and for tourists. It is well known for its trout fishing. The major hapu of the Turangi area is Ngati Turangitukua.
The streets around Turangi in autumn are lined with “brilliant” foliage.
Built on the banks of the Tongariro River, Turangi and its surrounding countryside offers challenging hunting, fishing, mountain biking, hiking or leisurely bush walks, white water rafting, kayaking, sight seeing and much more.
The town has a population of around 3500 , and it is (after Taupo) the second largest population centre in the Taupo District. The Town's population peaked at 9000 during the 1970s. Since the end of the Project in the 1980s the population has declined but has remained stable due to the town's handy location for tourists.
The major Tuwharetoa migration occurred from about the 16th Century with a warparty under command of Turangitukua who engaged in a number of battles against earlier inhabitants of the Taupo, Rotoaira and Kaimanawa area.
Following these battles a variety of settlements were established in the area with major pa established on the cliff overlooking the Tongariro River and at Waitahanui on the Tongariro Delta. Another important settlement was at Tokaanu.
The people who eventually become known as Ngati Turangitukua associate mainly with Waitahanui pa. From here they established a number of homesteads along both sides of the Tongariro River and its tributaries. Including houses along the main Highway to Taumarunui (now Hirangi Road) In 1910 construction of a wharepuni begun which eventually became the Hirangi Marae complex.
In the 1880s and 1890s brown and rainbow trout were introduced of into the lake and rivers of the area. A small fishing camp was established at Taupahi on the Tongariro river bank (now Taupahi Road) and a number of European fisherman camped here.
It was also during this period that the Morar family arrived, migrants from India, who settled in the area establishing a store in Tokaanu.
By 1960 the population was about 500.
The tourist potential of Lake Taupo was appreciated, as well as the economic benefits that could be captured by creating a permanent township, if. Taken in account of: accessibility, climate, and adequacy of suitable land for development of a township, it was decided to go with the Turangi West site.
Construction the town began late in 1964, the Government invested $16 million in the development By May 1966, the population of Turangi had jumped from 500 to 2,500 people and by 1968 the population reached a high of 6,500.
A model town with curving streets and cul-de-sacs, uniform houses, pedestrian shopping centre, parking lots and separation from the traffic on the main highway was created .
A publicity pamphlet published by the Ministry of Works in 1969 described Turangi at that time as a pleasant and attractive town of 5000 people which offered a ‘balanced community life’. The pamphlet enumerated the town’s amenities, shops, and services, such as its mall, schools, sports facilities, library, maternity hospital, parks, and, not least, its wide, grassy verges and kerbing.
Following the completion of the project in the late 1970s, the Ministry of Works and other government departments began a process of selling assets within the Turangi Township.
In 1989 Ngati Turangitukua registered with the Waitangi Tribunal (Wai 84) The claim was heard under urgency between April and October 1994, and the Tribunal's Report was released in September 1995.
The Tribunal found that the Crown had breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in a number of ways:
In July 1998, the Crown and Ngati Turangitukua negotiated to achieve a full and final settlement of Ngati Turangitukua's Treaty claims and to remove the continuing sense of grievance.
The Crown and Ngati Turangitukua entered into a deed of settlement on 26 September 1998, resulting in a full and final settlement of Ngati Turangitukua's Treaty claims relating to the development and construction of the Turangi Township and its after effects.
In 1999 the Ngati Turangitukua Claims Settlement Act 1999 was passed to:
(a) To record the apology given by the Crown to Ngati Turangitukua in the deed of settlement executed on 26 September 1998 by the Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, the Right Honourable Sir Douglas Arthur Montrose Graham, for the Crown, and Ngati Turangitukua; and
(b) To give effect to certain provisions of that deed of settlement, being a deed that settles the Ngati Turangitukua claims.
The world famous Tongariro River, runs through the middle of the town. The town calls itself "The trout fishing capital of the world".
The role of the Turangi Tongariro Community Boards is to :